What Happened to the Great Movie Soundtrack?

What happened to soundtracks?

Do you remember how soundtracks used to be extreeeeeeemely dope? The movie would come out, but half the time, the movie went to another level because of the soundtrack. Obviously, y’all know I have a great affinity for the Belly soundtrack. But then there was the Jason’s Lyric soundtrack, which justifies it’s very existence off the strength of “U Will Know” by Black Men United and “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” by K-Ci.  Forget the fact that the soundtrack included Mint Condition, Brian McKnight, Spice 1, Scarface, and Oleta Adams. You can even forget the fact that I’ve already called out K-Ci’s rendition of “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” is one of the great song snatchings of all time. Just think about one thing– “U Will Know” by Black Men United–and how it’s the only song they ever made. It’s like “We Are the World” for the neighborhood. Look at the names: D’Angelo, who wrote it when he was about 19 or 20 years old, plus Aaron Hall, After 7, Silk, D.R.S., H-Town, Gerald Levert, El Debarge, Johnny Gill, Joe, Lenny Kravitz on guitar, Stokely from Mint Conditon, Tevin Campbell, Keith Sweat, Boyz II Men, Al B. Sure, and some more people who are totally underrated. There was Christopher Williams, Intro, Portrait,  Damion Hall, and Silk (whose “Meeting in My Bedroom” was >>>>. I don’t know what happened to that CD.) Thin about how great that was, then think about how today, there are no R&B groups–everybody wants to be solo. And think about how BMU was a group of groups, a choir full of all stars. It’s like when you’re playing NBA 2K and you can draft whoever on your team, so you have a team with Michael Jordan and Shaq and Kobe and Lebron and Magic Johnson and everybody…the team’s so good you have Bill Russell and Larry Bird coming off the bench. Well, that’s what Black Men United did with “U Will Know.” You’ve got stars singing background, just to be a part of this. It’s unfair. Not only did they get people there to record it, but they got them all together for the music video. And they did all this for a soundtrack. Excuse me, I’m going in:

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Belly: You Don’t Realize How Good This Movie Actually Is

 

Belly is one of the most important movies in the history of Black cinema.

Yeah, I said it, and I’m not afraid of any of y’all. This movie is hotly debated among Black people. “It looks like a music video.” “It’s dark. No, not the mood, the lighting.” “It makes no sense.” “What is that movie even supposed to be about?”  “That’s what happens when you give rappers acting jobs.” “That’s why they never should’ve given these people money.”

Is the movie a cinematic masterpiece? In a word, no. But it’s valuable because it captured so much of the ethos of the time it came out, in 1998. For one thing, it showed things as they were in people’s heads, and reflected how they interacted with the culture. Kids today won’t understand, but people actually used to sit around the TV watching hours and hours of music videos. You’d wait for a music video you really loved to come on, and you’d discover entirely new music that way. Music videos had reached the level of short feature films. The budgets had grown huge and production values had gone through the roof. You’d see helicopters, speedboats, exotic locations, explosions, quality computer generated images, and crazy cameo appearances. Music videos started to get to be longer than the actual songs. At R. Kelly’s peak, his “Down Low” video series was epic. They singlehandedly reenergized Ron Isley’s career as Mr. Big. R. Kelly kept on banging Mr. Big’s women, until finally Mr. Big had him beat down and dropped off to die in the desert. For a while, there was talk of an R. Kelly/Mr. Big movie, WHICH I WOULD STILL GLADLY PAY MONEY TO SEE. During that time, Hype Williams was one of the most prolific and sought after video directors. So it was inevitable that he would one day make a feature length film, and when he did, its opening sequence would look like this. I’m sorry I can’t embed it, but you need to click on that link. I can say this without hyperbole: I’m going to let you finish, but Hype Williams created one of the greatest opening film sequences of all time. Of course it looks like a music video. It’s the point. The music videoness of it makes the scene matter as much as it does. And that sequence breathed new life into Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life.” I can’t even hear that song without thinking about a slow motion robbery happening under ultraviolet lights. Continue Reading